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So there I was a few months out of my only adult relationship wondering how the hell I would ever connect deeply with someone of the opposite sex again. You become so comfortable with one person over 17 years that it seemed impossible to me that I would know the first thing about how to behave with someone new.
It’s like going back to the drawing board. But not really even that because now I had two children, a body displaying the scars of such, and massive trust issues. The way the relationship ended meant my self-esteem was at an all-time low. It wasn’t a fairy tale by any means. What relationship is? I blame Walt Disney.
The one person who was meant to be "there" for me...well...simply wasn't "there" anymore, metaphorically and literally. But how could that be? We were gonna get married (although we were no nearer setting a date even 10 years after putting a ring on it!). We were gonna grow old together. Oh, I had it all planned out…in the bag (in my head)! But that was obviously complacency on my part or just that I was so scared of being alone that I was willing to put up with any kind of shit in order to achieve it.
But when the time came to it and with what had happened on New Year’s Eve 2015, I knew that was it. There was no more making excuses or pretending we could work it out for the children. And there certainly was no carpet big enough in which to brush this humongous pile of shit under. He wanted out and he made it perfectly clear, and the last bit of self-respect that I had in me was crying out to me, for its own self-preservation that I had to let go, for my own sanity. However hard and lonely it was going to be, it was never ever going to work. As in the words of Taylor Swift, "We were never, ever, getting back together." So whether I liked it or not, after 17 years, I was now single for sure.
Single and not so ready to mingle, but it’s what you did right? Pick yourself up and get right back into that relationship saddle? I wasn’t the only person on the planet to come out of long-term relationship. It was my chance for second love, real love, to get a relationship right. It was my time for a new "Bae," "Netflix and Chill," "Relationship Goals" (pass me the fucking bucket!) that everyone in an effing relationship seemed so preoccupied with on FB. A sweeter, more wholesome, exciting love. Without all the grossness like nose picking, farting freely, and "don’t mind if they see you on the toilet taking a shit" kinda love. I could have mystery and romance and butterflies in the tummy again! How exciting, right?
But how do I even begin this journey? Where do I start? Who do I see as a proposed new suitor? The rather sheltered domestic life I’d led up until that point meant that I didn’t have a massive social circle.
I had my hobby, Amdram at my local theatre, but all the men were either pensioners, married, or gay—sometimes all three! There was no one really who caught my eye at work… again pensioner, married, or gay. And the idea of meeting a man in a pub or club and swapping numbers seemed outdated, precarious, dangerous even.
So into the abyss that is online dating I go. I wasn’t sure how to react to the attention at first. I guess I was flattered with every new view and every new message that came through, but very quickly the novelty wore off. These men were strangers. Strangers from which I was soliciting and encouraging attention. It just all seemed so seedy and wrong. It made my skin crawl.
The real life version of this would be like me standing on a box in Piccadilly gardens shouting out, "Come talk to me! I’m single! I’m lonely! Come restore some of my self-esteem and make me feel wanted and a worthy human being again. At least for one night only." I mean they could have been and were anyone. They may not even have been the person they were claiming in the picture. Believe me, I’ve watched enough episode of MTV’s Catfish to be wise to that!
The messages started coming through and the online dating "virgin" (pardon the pun) in me got rather excited at first, I'll admit. Maybe I wasn’t destined to live a lonely and destitute life after all?! Maybe there is a white knight out there, just waiting to come and sweep me off my feet and carry me into the sunset on his stead (two kids and emotional baggage in tow)? But I soon lost enthusiasm. I just didn’t get it. Messages like "How are you?", "Are you having a nice day?", "Are you looking forward to the weekend?" just didn’t cut it with me. Especially as someone who takes at least a whole 48 hours (if you’re lucky) to respond to a text message from their own nearest and dearest friends and family. It’s fair to say, I'm not the best at casual conversation.
There was M, 37 from Crawshawbooth who was kind enough to ask how I was and tell me he hoped I was "always flourishing"...
...and Dave 35 from Manchester who was sure that I "got what" he "came here for" and how it makes him "respect and adore" me more...
...and let’s not forget J, 27 from Troyes who writes stating (this is definitely better when read with a French accent!), "I search the one nice person to talk with she. I am French and I want to improve my English and creat a true relationship. Are you interesting?"...
...I certainly didn’t feel like I was interesting, or flourishing, or I had what anyone came here for, for that matter and messages from these strangers just exacerbated it more.
There was however an Italian called Giovanni who I did have the courage to strike up a conversation with. Mainly I think because he said he’d visited Manchester and loved the city. From memory, the conversation went something like this…
Giovanni: I love Manchester, such a great city!
Me: Yeah, absolutely! Just the best! So you’ve visited then?
Giovanni: Yes, I came over last summer!
Me: Oh really? Was it for business or pleasure?
Giovanni: Pleasure! I’m a massive fan of a British pop star and I just had to see him perform!
Me: Oh fab! Who did you come to see?
Giovanni: He was in a really successful boy band.
Me: Cool! Which one.
Me: Westlife? Oh...OK...
Giovanni: Yeah. He's called Bryan McFadden! Have you heard of him?
Me: Brian McFadden?...Yes…yes, I’ve heard of him…
Suffice to say, the conversation was a bit stilted from then on.
Alright, these guys could have all been genuine and lovely, but I just wasn’t feeling any of it.
Truth was, I wasn't ready for anyone new right now. There was so much going on and so many changes in my life happening that I just had to step back, take stock and find out who "I" was. "Rediscover myself" (Cringe? Yes). But hell! I hadn't been "Me" since I was 17 years old. So that was exactly what I was going to do!